"Feathers, hay, road kill, seaweed, truckloads of horse manure..."
The charming, farming chef Chris Fischer makes an inventory of everything that ends up on the compost heap at Beetlebung Farm, his family's five-acre plot in the up-island village of Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard.
Good food, Fischer says, begins with good dirt. On this enriched soil, he grows most of the produce (and a few rabbits) for his restaurant a mile away at The Beach Plum Inn.
Fischer's worked in the kitchens of NYC's Babbo and London's River Café and St. John Bread and Wine, and spent some time in Berkeley, as well. But his roots are here in what he calls a "quasi-vibrant fishing community." He grew up hunting for dinner and pulling up lobster pots with his outdoorsman father, who worked as the estate manager for a 400-acre property owned by Jackie Onassis. They had a pet crow and raccoon. He was the only kid in 4th grade. ("I was first in my class," he says.)
"Chilmark is very small," Fischer says. "But there are a handful of farms producing some of the best food, I think, in the world."
After coming home to run the family farm, Fischer started hosting dinners for friends in the fields. Word of the invitation-only feasts spread, and last spring he took over the Beach Plum. This being the Vineyard, the place has attracted some high-flying regulars: The Obamas are fans; Jake Gyllenhaal is an old pal.
Last month Fischer and crew descended on New York to run a pop-up called Fish and Rose (watch the video). The temporary downtown spot was a chance to do something creative with their winter break and introduce Manhattanites to the culinary offerings of another insular island. The restaurant won't open again until May; you may want to book your reservations soon.
"The Vineyard has this reputation because of the people who come here and all that," he says. "But the main thing is it's always been a place that needed to be self-sufficient."
He continues, "If I hear 'farm to table' one more time, I'm going to kill myself. But we're making food from Chilmark, from Menemsha. You have to come here to eat it. You can't have this experience anywhere else in the world, and those are the most exciting restaurants in the world right now."